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Mural Study For Roanoke Rapids: Dress Factory
Oil On Canvas, 17 x 25, c. 1938.

CHARLES WARD (1900 - 1962)

Ward Delivers First Post Office Mural for the WPA

During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) commissioned artists across the nation to create murals for civic buildings. Painters such as Thomas Hart Benton, Ben Shann and Arshille Gorky all created murals for the government during this period. Charles Ward created the first of the WPA’s best known series of murals for post offices around the country.

His panoramic view of the workers responsible for industry in Trenton, New Jersey was soon joined by two other murals, “Rural Delivery” and “The Second Battle of Trenton.” The following year he painted “Cotton Pickers” for the Roanoke Rapids post office in North Carolina. Depicting African American workers in a respectful manner was actually controversial at the time, with newspapers and locals criticizing the work.

In this exhibition we have a study for “Cotton Pickers” as well as preliminary oils for unrealized murals for the WPA. Despite his acclaim for his murals he would create only one other set for the Playhouse Inn in New Hope. He would spend the rest of his career concentrating on more personal subjects and themes, as well as communicating those same themes to students.

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